Spring Faculty Seminar: "Creativities: Unpacking the Varieties of a Key Normative Ideal"

April 29, 2019 - 3:00pm to May 3, 2019 - 5:00pm

Location and Address

Humanities Center, 602 Cathedral of Learning

Creativities: Unpacking the Varieties of a Key Normative Ideal

Humanities Center Spring 2019 Faculty Seminar

April 29–May 3, 2019 (3:00-5:00 pm)

Pitt’s Humanities Center is pleased to announce and invite participation in our Spring 2019 Faculty Seminar.  As in previous years, this seminar will give faculty and graduate students an opportunity to think together about an issue of contemporary concern within the humanities.

This year’s visiting fellow and seminar leader, Eitan Wilf, is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  He is a provocative analyst of creativity and the author of two books—School for Cool: The Academic Jazz Program and the Paradox of Institutionalized Creativity (Chicago, 2014) and Creativity on Demand: The Dilemmas of Innovation in an Accelerated Age (Chicago, 2019).

Wilf describes the seminar in the following terms: “Creativity has become a dominant normative ideal in the present historical moment.  Individuals are encouraged and summoned to realize their creative potential; school curricula are evaluated according to whether or not they help them do so; and firms, cities, and nation-states are now seeking the advice of experts in an effort to harness creativity as a capitalist means of production and as a source of value.  On the one hand, these multiple, historically- and culturally-specific instantiations of creativity might suggest that creativity has become a meaningless term, a kind of pragmatically ambiguous master trope that is used to naturalize ideologically suspect positions in different ethnographic contexts.  On the other hand, this multiplicity might provide an opportunity to unpack the specificity and cultural potency of creativity by contrasting and comparing its numerous cultural and institutional instantiations.  Training a focused lens on these two, not necessarily mutually-exclusive possibilities, this seminar will unpack both the varieties and unifying dimensions, as well as the potentialities and pitfalls, of contemporary norms, practices, and meanings of creativity as they find expression in the fields of intellectual property rights, improvised music, business innovation, cognition, and computation.”

A cultural and semiotic anthropologist, Wilf employs ethnography as his principal method of investigation, but his work unfolds at the intersection of a number of fields.  This year’s Humanities Center Faculty Seminar is thus organized around a series of collaborative encounters with Pitt faculty working on creativity from different disciplinary perspectives: Susan Cohen on business innovation, Aaron Johnson on musical improvisation, Alison Langmead on computational modeling of creativity, Michael Madison on intellectual property law, and Christian Schunn on analogy and innovative design.

If you are interested in participating in this seminar, please RSVP to the Humanities Center (humctr@pitt.edu) to confirm.  All are welcome, but these seminars have filled in the past, so an early confirmation is recommended to guarantee your place for the five days.  If you have questions concerning the seminar, please direct them to David Marshall (dlm91@pitt.edu).

A reading group led by the Center’s Associate Director, Dan Kubis, will hold four preparatory discussions through the spring term to begin conversation on the seminar’s thematic.  Graduate students who wish to receive credit for participation in this reading group may enroll in a 1-credit ENGLIT course, “Studies in the Humanities” (ENGLIT 2001), which is cross-listed with Cultural Studies.  Questions concerning the reading group may be directed to Dan Kubis (dankubis@pitt.edu).

Event Flier

Led by Eitan Wilf (Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Anthropology; pictured above), with collaboration from Susan Cohen (Pitt, Business), Aaron Johnson (Pitt, Music), Alison Langmead (Pitt, History of Art and Architecture and SCI), Michael Madison (Pitt, Law), and Christian Schunn (Pitt, Psychology)